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Sini Caligraphy: Roots & Identity

Sun, June 26, 5:00 to 6:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 105


Sinophone Muslims known as the Hui comprise almost half of China’s Muslim population, distributed throughout the various provinces of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). When looking closely at the artistic activities of the Hui, Sini calligraphy represents the most famous artistic fruit of Muslim existence in China. It is an Arabic script that has been used by Chinese Muslims in China in mosque invocations, vessel inscriptions, or in hanging scrolls decorating their houses. Sini’s distinctiveness rises from its hybrid style, which presents Arabic writing with Chinese flavor and technique. Although generated in non-Muslim surroundings, Sini maintained its existence for hundreds of years among Chinese Muslims. It has developed several variants that have reached us in the form of tombstones like those in Quanzhou, or interiors of mosques in eastern China, the script’s birthplace, or early copies of the Qur’an, along with ceramic and bronze vessels. An early form of simple Arabic writing existed from the early years of Muslims’ residence in China, but the peak of Sini was during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when Chinese Muslims started to build their own calligraphic system.
In this presentation I cover the classic form of Sini that developed in the late Yuan (1279-1368) – early Ming period, and the development of the script and its different variants. Moreover, I will focus on the challenges facing preserving Sini as a unique calligraphic style, and its importance as a reflection of the Chinese Muslim identity, education, status, and connections with the Islamic world.